The brown widow spider, Latrodectus geometricus C. L. Koch, has become newly established in southern California during the first decade of the 21st century. Brown widows and egg sacs were collected within the urban Los Angeles Basin using timed searches. We also collected and compared the abundance and distribution of the native western black widow spider, Latrodectus hesperus Chamberlin & Ivie, to brown widows. Brown widows were very common around urban structures especially outside homes, in parks, under playground equipment, in plant nurseries and landscaping areas, greatly outnumbering native western black widows, and were very rare or nonexistent in garages, agricultural crops, and natural areas. Western black widows predominated in xeric habitats and were less prevalent around homes. Neither species was found in the living space of homes. In southern California, envenomation risk exists because brown widows are now common in urban areas and the spiders hide where people place their fingers and exert pressure to move objects (e.g., under the curled lip of potted plants, in the recessed handle of plastic trash bins). Nonetheless, brown widow spider bites are less toxic than those of native western black widow spiders and, hence, if they are displacing black widows, overall widow envenomation risk may actually be lower than before brown widow establishment.
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Vol. 49 • No. 4